So here’s Hilda, “America’s Forgotten Pin-Up Girl”.
Apparently she’s “awoooga” according to the Jezebel writer who first mentioned and linked to this blog post.
>.> I guess I’m not lesbian-tendencies enough to get this but… she reminds me too much of a mom to be “awoooga”. She is seriously… wholesome.
Well, that was probably what a lot of men went in for back when she was created in the 60s. I’ve always been more of a Bettie Page fan, if we’re talking pin-up girls.
I am digging the flour sack bikini though.
I guess that ties in to another side to the “portrayals of fat women” topic: Fat women are often the “mothers” in depictions. Their sexiness has been replaced with a wholesome, doughy, comforting look. When it comes to sexy, sexy always seems to be slim. Add some padding to that, and you find yourself staring at the role that is acceptable and appropriate for thicker female bodies, the role of a mom, a woman who has left her young, sensuous side behind.
Hilda sort of intersects the two ideas when I look at her, which is why I find these images a little weird. On one hand, it’s a bit insulting for any plus-sized woman to be stripped of sexuality. On the other hand, it’s also unfair when the sexuality that is given to a plus-sized model-type like “Hilda” is so innocent, sweet. Girl next door.
Of course, if you look for vintage pin-ups, many of them do reveal a “girl next door” look.
But some of them don’t:
When it comes to depictions of women and their bodies, there’s always another layer and another layer. It doesn’t seem to end, the tangle of meanings and cultural associations that the female body can have.
So while it may be great to find treasures like Hilda, I can’t say that I’m one of those people who can “read” her in any sort of celebratory light. She may be “plus-sized” but she’s still a pin-up, still a sex-object, and still one in which her own place as a sexual creature takes back seat to the desires of the intended viewers. While you can make a case that other pin-ups, in sexy lingerie, portray a woman who is more in charge of her own sexuality and its expression, I don’t think you can make that same case with the buxom redhead that has been forgotten from the pin-up scene.
Sadly, search for “pin-up” to look for the few modern examples you might find, and you will end up seeing women who are swimsuit model thin (you know, flat bellies but bigger boobs and butts) posing in ways that don’t necessarily strike me as expressing their own sexuality, in an ownership fashion, so much as they are playing out a certain sexual role for another.
And while that can be perfectly fine for a woman who has a particular man in mind, in the wider world of “pin-up art” or pin-up style photography, or just depictions of sexy women, I feel like no matter how far we move away from the idea of women as inferior, we aren’t making any head way in freeing women from the sort of traditional portrayals that both make women feel less confident in their own bodies and less confident in their own sexual desires.
And that makes me sad.